Truro vs The Taxman: A Happy Ending?
Shortly before 12.30pm today @TruroCityTweet declared ‘ALL CLEAR FOR CITY -TAX BILL PAID IN FULL’ (their capitals not mine but worthy of shouting nonetheless) and it seemed in light of the current cloud of doom hanging over parts of non-league that the sun has broken through over Cornwall at least.
That Truro, subject of a winding up order way back in September, have found the money to pay HMRC in full (and it is rumoured this was a fair wedge, a six-figure sum and certainly not the amount you find knocking about down the back of the sofa) is a positive sign that the southern-most club at Step 2 is starting to move in the right direction.
It went down to the wire though, two hours before a winding up hearing was due at the High Court the club informed HMRC that the debt had been paid in full. The winding up hearing will now be dismissed at the end of the month providing the payment goes through and HMRC are satisfied.
Buoyant chairman Kevin Heaney told This Is Cornwall it was time to put the financial problems behind the club and move on.
He said: “So from now on it is business as usual, with team strengthening and our continued commitment to the Stadium for Cornwall project. We will now be seeking to have the League’s transfer embargo lifted just as soon as possible so that we can start strengthening our squad again.” On Radio Cornwall he went into further detail about what caused the debt to build up and blamed the non-payment of more than £150K from a sponsor for the delay in paying the tax bill.
He told BBC South West: “There are no other creditors chasing Truro City FC at all although we are chasing people that owe us money.
“We shall be vigorously chasing people that owe us money which runs way beyond six figures and had these companies paid us then our issues wouldn’t have arisen in the first place.”
Financial woes, unpaid debts and creditors are becoming familiar language in non-league football and even the fact that Truro are chasing such amounts of money should not really come as a surprise in the context of the wider economic woe.
But as the fans of the White Tigers breathe a big sigh of relief and have a little sit down there is a little nagging question in the back of some people’s minds. As Ian pointed out in September the club’s finances show that Heaney’s deep pockets have been keeping Truro going through their dramatic rise through the leagues in the past few years but how have the club suddenly found a six figure sum they didn’t have six months ago?
Heaney meanwhile has said he will push on with his plans for a Stadium for Cornwall. The plans were delayed back in December, having been granted outline planning permission, forcing the Cornish Pirates (the rugby team penciled in to share the stadium) into a groundshare at Plymouth Argyle for the 2012/13 season because of the hold up. The delay was attributed to the ongoing financial problems at the football club, which makes the total repayment of the HMRC debt even more impressive. With the taxman happy the club can sign up to be part of the ambitious development and, according to the chairman, start talking to investors.
The Stadium for Cornwall plans are by no means receiving the full backing of the local population. Local councillors have questioned the figures in the plans (as they tend to do) – with Alex Folkes, deputy leader of the local Lib Dems saying that the suggestion that the rugby team would employ 30 people and the football club a further 20 were ‘ridiculous.’ Presumably Mr Folkes is not entertaining the idea of either club going full time which would more than cover this figure but that is by the by. Despite the political posturing plans for 350 homes, closely linked to the stadium plans, are now in and will be discussed by the council in the coming weeks. But interestingly Cornish Properties Ltd (run by one K Heaney) was not named as partners in the revamped plans as they were in the original application, Persimmon Homes is listed as the sole company.
Away from the SfC plans Heaney has also moved to rebuild bridges with TISA (Truro Independent Supporters Association) – lifting the ban on TISA merchandise being worn on matchdays which can be seen as a starting point for improving the strained relationship between the fans and the club.
And moving to the actual football for a brief moment, Truro, under a transfer embargo since the initial winding-up petition, have had a tough season on the field. Despite some big players they have struggled with consistency, going out of the FA Cup on the end of a 7-2 drubbing from Gloucester and not doing much better in the Trophy. Injuries have ravaged the already lean squad and rumours of players not being paid have risen from whispers to a tinnitus-like constant hum. While they can now petition the Conference to have the transfer embargo lifted the reputation of a club ‘on the brink’ will be hard to shake, given that Truro’s geographical remoteness perhaps necessitates the generous wages they are rumoured to pay, might they now struggle to attract marquee, ex-League players who have peppered their squad in recent years?
Elsewhere some worried fans have voiced concerns that Treyew Road may not be up to the stringent Conference Ground Grading rules (the number of turnstiles, the size of the changing rooms and the ability to segregate games seem to be the main areas of concern) with a looming deadline of March 31 for upgrades to be made to take the club up to the requisite Category B needed for life in the Blue Square South.
So it isn’t quite happy families just yet but with the HMRC debt paid and plans for the future in motion now is time for Truro to take stock and reflect. Indeed Heaney’s dream, of a top flight football club for Cornwall in a purpose built stadium, is admirable but the Stadium for Cornwall team might do well to look a couple of hundred miles further north to another big stadium built on big dreams to see how big dreams can turn into total nightmares.